Behind the Laptop: #OperationGrassroots In Full Effect
Briggs & Stratton LO206 continues growth across North America
Three years ago, I was introduced into the concept of the Briggs & Stratton LO206 engine package. The goal was to provide a relatively easy entry-level package for someone with no motorsports background or racing experience. The explosion of the Clone category took that engine package to a level that no one wanted to see it go, which still left a void in the progression ladder that is karting. To compliment the Yamaha package, there needed to be something in the 4-cycle genre for those not looking for a 2-cycle powerplant. Enter the Briggs LO206.
In the summer of 2012, EKN obtained our first LO206 engine with the goal of learning exactly what it took to make it race-ready. We found out that it was not much. You simply needed to add a clutch, exhaust, motor mount and a few miscellaneous parts to make the Briggs breath and eat. Our first race with the package was the Rock Island Grand Prix, where the LO206 was making its debut. Over 20 drivers from oval, sprint, 2-cycle, shifter and of course 4-cycle backgrounds took part. It was a great outing. The following year, the class reached 30 and an LO206 Heavy division was added that welcomed 19 drivers.
The exposure continued through our social media push and numerous articles and columns focused on the category. Throughout 2014, we have seen tracks across the country adding the engine to their class structure, and those already using the engine have enjoyed an impressive increase in participation. Part of the success has been the ‘less work, more play’ factor of the LO206 engine package. Racers who have won SKUSA SuperNationals, been a part of Team USA or have scored a Rotax Grand Nationals championship have all raced this season at a local or regional event aboard an LO206 package. This growth has continued into 2015, and keeps increasing by the week.
My goal, and I hope it is the same for everyone else who is focused on the category, is do what we can to make sure it does not turn into a top level class, such as was the class with TaG. The concept for TaG when it was developed in the early 2000s was to take different engines from different manufacturers and make them available for the club level drivers, as a simple way of racing that required little work and less maintenance when compared to the shifterkarts or the push-start ICA powerplants that were very popular at the time. Eventually, because of the speed, they grew in popularity and organizations/series began making them the top level category. Now, the concept of multiple engines is all but gone, with the focus going toward single engine categories, similar to what the Rotax, Rok, and Stock Moto offers. The difference with the Briggs package I firmly believe that it should remain focused on the club and regional level.
It is fair to say that 95% of the tracks or series in North America that offer the LO206 category follow the Briggs & Stratton engine rule set, allowing racers to know that no matter where they race, their engine is legal – something we do NOT see now in Yamaha, TaG, and shifterkart racing. What we have at this current time in the development of LO206 racing is a difference in the type of karts and the type of tires utilized. It is diverse from track to track, and looking into the future, it will never be the same across the board.
And that’s fine.
Certain areas of the country favor the 4-cycle style of kart, which includes a plastic full nose piece and the laydown style seats, to that of the 2-cycle approach with CIK bodywork and a standard situp seat. Let’s be honest, unless you are on a road racing track or competing on a circuit with a half-mile foot straight, the bodywork is not going to make or break your race. What will is that ‘nut’ behind the wheel, and the set-up on the chassis. From the top level of the sport down to the club level, the driver needs to be consistent in order to be fast. A driver could have a ‘faster’ engine, but if he doesn’t hit his marks corner after corner, lap after lap, the speed will not help him stay at the front. And if the driver is not responding with what the chassis presents him, that equates into more time lost on the stopwatch.
Next to fuel and oil, tires is the highest consumable. Tires are what connects the kart to the track. Depending on where you race, clubs and series typically have spec tires to either keep the playing field level or to be contracted to a certain tire brand to provide financial incentives for the club. Looking across the country, MG, Bridgestone, Hoosier, Vega, Burris, Maxxis and more are utilized in Briggs LO206 racing. While it could be attempted to bring together close durometer reading compounds into one ‘group’ of tires to use at the same event, the only solution is to utilize one brand of tires at any one race. Buying a different set of tires to go race at another club, series or event is around $200…which is much less than buying the typical five sets during a national event, or having to add dual brakes to go road racing, or swapping your CIK bodywork out for full bodywork.
What we really need to be aware of is to not let Briggs LO206 racing get out of control. TaG began at the club level, and like we have seen, it blew up all over but was never regulated the same by anyone. Right now, Briggs & Stratton is the only kart engine manufacturer to provide engine specifications to all the sanctioning bodies – such as the WKA, IKF, NKA, AKRA, and more. If there is a rule difference, it was changed within that specific organization. It is up to us – the racers – to keep these rules the same across the board, and to not let any type of politics break up what the manufacturer has set up for us to follow.
The next step into keeping Briggs LO206 racing grassroots is to not overpopulate the schedule with races. We are seeing it on the national level, where racers and teams are on the road 12 months out of the year, sometimes traveling coast to coast during back-to-back weekends. That is not something we want for the Briggs LO206 program. Every club should have a class for Senior/Master, Junior, Cadet and Kid Kart. Each region around the country can promote one traveling series so as not to dilute the numbers, giving those with the extra budgets the opportunity to compete at a higher level. And maybe in the next year or two, there could be one or two major events on the calendar to celebrate Briggs LO 206 racing – similar to that of the SCCA Runoffs.
Briggs racing is on the upward swing in Canada as well, since the ASN made its move over to the Briggs LO206 as the country’s official 4-cycle engine. Clubs are adding the engine to run as the counterpart to the Rotax choice, with big numbers showing up in the west, and the east, all meeting at one event – the Canadian Karting National Championships. With Rotax seeing declining numbers in Canada, Briggs LO206 participation is at an all-time high.
Ten years down the road, I hope that I won’t see Briggs LO206 at the SKUSA SuperNationals, or on the sprint track at the WKA Daytona KartWeek, or during the winter months at an international Rotax weekend. Everything has a place, and the Briggs LO206 is at home with the club level racing. It’s up to us – the racers – to keep it that way.
Simple, fun, and grassroots.
Life is short, have fun!
eKartingNews.com Managing Editor